Oculus buys eye-tracking firm The Eye Tribe
Acquisition follows a similar deal from Google, points to central role of eye-tracking in VR's future
Oculus VR has boosted its eye-tracking capability with the acquisition of the Danish firm The Eye Tribe.
The precise terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Oculus has confirmed the acquisition to a number of websites - including Techcrunch, which also found evidence that Facebook, Oculus' parent company, now owns 100% of The Eye Tribe's share capital and voting rights.
The Eye Tribe has been working on eye-tracking technology since 2007, when the company's founders met as a research team at the IT University of Copenhagen. The founders bought the IP from the university in 2011 and officially started The Eye Tribe. According to Techcrunch, the company raised $3 million while in the Startup Bootcamp acclerator, and received a $2.3 million grant from The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. Prior to the acquisition deal, it had 16 full-time employees.
The importance of eye-tracking in VR has become increasingly apparent over the last year. In March 2016 Fove VR raised $11 million to further develop its foveated rendering technology, an area in which The Eye Tribe is also a specialist. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in November, Fove CEO Yuka Kojima emphasised the importance of "seamless, stress free input" in achieving presence in VR experiences.
"Eye tracking is an additive layer for input," Kojima said. "It can make a gamepad fast and accurate, and can free up your hands to do other things, or be lazy while you navigate menus. Eye-tracking is a quantum leap beyond neck-based gaze input."
On its website, The Eye Tribe stated that eye-tracking "will become standard functionality in VR headsets" specifically because of foveated rendering. Oculus may well have that in mind with future versions of the Rift, and Google is thinking in a similar way: in October last year, it acquired an eye-tracking startup of its own, Eyefluence.